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In Stone's Clasp
Christie Golden
Luna, 457 pages

In Stone's Clasp
Christie Golden
Christie Golden is the author of twenty-three novels and over a dozen short stories in the fields of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. In 1999 she won the Colorado Authors' League Top Hand Award for Best Genre Novel for A.D. 999, written under the pen name of Jadrien Bell. She launched TSR's gothic horror fantasy line with Vampire of the Mists, and has written several tie-in books and short stories for Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, among many others.

Christie Golden Website
ISFDB Bibliography SF Site Review: On Fire's Wings
Interview and Excerpt at Luna Books

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Five Dancers guard the world: one for each of the elements, and a fifth for the realm of spirit. Each is accompanied by a mythic Companion beast, and by a Lorekeeper, whose duty it is to preserve the memories of the Dancers' earlier incarnations, and teach the Dancers to know themselves -- and to know their destiny. For it's the Dancers' task to oppose the Shadow, a fearsome force of destruction that has menaced the world four times before. Twice the Shadow has been defeated, and the world has survived; twice it has been victorious, and the world has been destroyed. Now the Shadow threatens a fifth time, and the outcome of this battle will be final. If the Shadow wins, the world will not be reborn.

Kevla-sha-Tahmu is the Flame Dancer, the element of Fire incarnate. She's the first of the Dancers to recognize herself, and it has become her task to seek out the others. In a vision she sees the Stone Dancer, embodiment of the element of earth. With her Companion, Dragon, she travels to the land of Lamal to find him. But Jareth, the Stone Dancer, has suffered a terrible loss, and is consumed by the desire for revenge; and his beloved Lamal is locked in an unnatural winter that can only be the work of some evil magic. As the Shadow presses closer and a mysterious, powerful enemy works against her from a distance, Kevla must battle Jareth's anger and isolation and awaken him to his destiny -- for if one Dancer falls, so do all the rest.

The snowbound landscapes of In Stone's Clasp are quite a contrast to the exotic, sun-drenched desert settings of the previous novel, but they're evoked with equal vividness -- from the simple rituals of Lamali village life that are disrupted by the sorcerous winter, to the strange taaskali nomads with their herds of caribou-like selva, to the magical realm of ice and thorn where the companions track winter to its source. As Jareth's and Kevla's individual quests proceed, the bigger picture continues to unfold. By the end of the book, most readers will have rather more than a suspicion about the true nature of the evil Emperor who is so determined to foil the Dancers' plans; it's also becoming clear that Kevla and her companions face much greater odds than the Dancers who preceded them -- for the mistakes and misdeeds of other people have deprived both Jareth and Kevla of the living presence of their Lorekeepers, and this may have dire effects on their ability to fight the Shadow.

There's plenty of adventure, magical and otherwise, and the plot offers unexpected twists and turns. But characterization remains the series' strength. Jareth and Kevla are legendary heroes engaged in an epic battle for the very existence of the world, but Golden doesn't let us forget that they're also flawed and human, vulnerable to fear and doubt. Both carry terrible burdens of grief and anger, which threaten the source of their elemental powers; their separate struggle to come to terms with their losses are sympathetically and believably portrayed. It's a nice balance of action and introspection, adding depth to this entertaining romantic fantasy. I'm already looking forward to the third installment, Under Sea's Shadow, due in 2006.

Copyright © 2005 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Burning Land, is available from HarperCollins Eos. For more information, visit her website.

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